wjxt logo

Man accused of killing, burying woman in court on other charges

Russell Tillis tells judge officer lied, asks that evidence be thrown out

Russell Tillis enters a pre-trial hearing Tuesday.
Russell Tillis enters a pre-trial hearing Tuesday.

Russell Tillis, the man charged last week with killing a woman, dismembering and burying her body in the yard of his Southside home, was in court Tuesday, but on different charges -- charges he want's thrown out.

Tillis has been in jail since May 2015, when police said he attacked two officers with knives as they served him with arrest warrants for threatening a neighbor and violating an injunction.

Tuesday's court appearance is a pretrial hearing on those charges, not the murder, kidnapping and abuse of a body charges filed connected with the death of Joni Gunter, whose remains were found buried in Tillis' yard in February.

During Tuesday's hearing, Tillis submitted his own motion, saying the officers lied about what happened when they came to his home, and asked that their statements and other evidence be thrown out. After the brief hearing, the assault case was passed on to Jan. 3.

"Allegations that have been made are obviously very difficult to even swallow, much less, they're going to be very difficult to defend," said Gene Nichols, a defense attorney not involved with Tillis' case.

Tillis is being represented by the Office of Regional Conflict Counsel after he parted ways with the public defender first appointed in the case. But court records show Tillis is still dissatisfied with the taxpayer-funded lawyer defending him.

In a letter to the judge, Tillis said his new attorney wasn't working with him on the case and, "became physically flirtatious, using her sexuality as a means to subdue defendant’s requests." He also said she “stroked him in the courtroom.”

"Clearly, it has been difficult representing this defendant. He's made multiple allegations against excellent lawyers, that they're doing things wrong; that they're not doing things the way he wants to," Nichols said.

Nichols said that despite his behavior, Tillis' attorney still has a legal responsibility to give him the best defense possible. 

"When you're in that role, you have an absolute obligation to represent your client. Period. Whether they're difficult; whether they're not difficult," Nichols said.

Tillis be back in a courtroom later this month to be arraigned on the murder and other charges.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.